Mere Christianity: Part IV

Book III (continued for the second time)

Hmmm… I thought I’d be through with this book in 3 posts or so, but that clearly isn’t the case!

Forgiveness

Lewis revises his statement that chastity is the most unpopular virtue: forgiveness may just be  more undesirable. He poses the question, “What does it mean to love your neighbour as yourself?” [As Alistair Begg put it, “Does it mean going round saying, ‘I love me, I love me, I love me’?”]

He says loving your neighbour is not:

  • A feeling of fondness or affection. We don’t always feel fond of ourselves, or always enjoy our own company.
  • Thinking him to be nice.  “[M]y self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not what makes me love myself. … In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I’ve done with horror and loathing. So apparently I’m allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do.”
  • Not punishing him.

He concludes that loving your neighbour is “wishing his good, not … saying he is nice when he is not. … [T]his means loving people who have nothing lovable about them.”

The Great Sin

He describes this sin as a vice “which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else”. What is it? Pride. He makes this astonishing statement: “Pride leads to every other vice.”

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. … Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride … Other vices may sometime bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity – it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.

Pride is enmity to God because He is infinitely superior to us. A proud person is alway looking down on things and people, and therefore completely misses what is above him. He then raises the question of those who claim to be religious but are quite obviously consumed by pride. The answer is this: “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether. ”

The first step to acquiring humility is to realise that one is proud. He concludes by saying, “If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

Continue to Part 5.

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